BAUXITE, Ark — "This is hallowed ground," Bauxite head football coach Daryl Patton says, pointing to the field affectionately known as The Pit.
It's Thursday at Bauxite. There are game plans to install and film to watch before their game at Ashdown. But before all that, the Miners listen to former Bauxite lineman, Ron Oliver, who tells stories from 1983 about his team that went undefeated in the regular season.
“I’m going to tell you what," Oliver said, standing behind a lecture in front of this year's Miners team. "You start mixing unselfishness with family and just a will to do something and mix in team with a capital T, there’s nothing you can’t do.”
Every Thursday for the last two years, Daryl Patton has had a former Miner come and talk to the team, to tell them stories and to teach them about what it means to carry on the Bauxite tradition.
"I think it’s important for our kids to understand what they’re playing for," said Patton. "The more that we do this, the more the kids are going to understand the people that have played on this field."
The idea for the Thursday afternoon talks came from John Lawrence, who kicked for the Miners from 1979 to 1981.
“Part of tradition is keeping your history alive," said Lawrence, when asked why he thought it was important to have former players come back and talk to the team. "And some of the best football players in the state of Arkansas played on this very football field.”
This season marks the 100th year of football in Bauxite. A century of tough, hard-nosed competition inspired by the local miners and the teams that bore their name.
“The people that were here before us, they left their mark. They left their legacy," Patton said. "And it’s important for our kids to see it.”
Something the team sees every day is a piece of birdseye bauxite placed at the entrance to The Pit. It was put there in the early 1990s by then-Head Coach John Watson as a reminder of where the team, and the town, came from.
Patton makes sure his players touch it before every practice and every game.
“Bauxite wasn’t a white-collar town. Never has been. It’s been just a blue-collar town, hard work, that’s how we make our living. We made it in the plants and the mines," Patton said. "To see our kids link to that lineage and that heritage, it makes you proud as a coach.”
It's an enduring link between the past and the present.
“It’s family," said Lawrence. "And you can’t have tradition unless you have family and you have to have a football team for everybody to rally around.”
MORE TACKLING TRADITIONS:
- Little Rock McClellan honor memory of football program in wake of school closing
- What 115 years of high school football in one small Arkansas town means